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Archive for the ‘meta’ Category

Two Years In Pictures

People have asked me if I have been taking progress photos, and I’m a little sorry that I haven’t been. It would’ve been cool to see a time-lapse of my gradually shrinking body taken at the same place over a few years.

While it’s not nearly as cool, I did compile a few photos taken of me over the past two years (and a couple of months) so you can contrast and compare. The first photo is from March 2008 (in front of Faneuil Hall in Boston), when I was actually a bit heavier than I was even when I officially started my Clean Livin’ program, and the last photo was taken a week ago behind our house in Chicago, with me wearing a white tuxedo because we were going to my company’s “Prom” party.

Rather than trying to show how heavy I was I figured I’d show photos that I considered flattering at the time they were taken. So many before-and-after photos show horrible before photos with professionally posed after-shots. I figured I’d make an effort to do my best to show me looking my best.

March 2008 - June 2010

Click for a larger image.

Biennial

I’ve been on the path to Clean Livin’ for two years now. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long already. I’ve had some ups & downs on the scale, but mostly downs, as I’ve lost 153 pounds since 16 June 2008.

Okay, so I definitely didn't lose over 150 pounds eating stuff like THIS.The first half of the year marked some major fitness milestones for me; the most notable of which was getting down below the 300 pound mark. I went back over it a few times, and I didn’t help myself in trying all of the unhealthy foods that Seattle and Portland had to offer (see photo). I gained 2-3 pounds during a ten-day vacation, which I quickly lost again to plateau at just under 300 again. These are things that happen.

Plateaus are part of the process, and shouldn’t be too discouraging, but it’s always nice to see the numbers decrease on the scale, especially if it’s a personal best.

What have I learned in the past two years? Mostly that I know I can do this (and you can too) and that I don’t have to eat healthily all of the time; just most of the time, and I’ll still lose weight.

I’m glad my original goal was to be fitter and lead a more active lifestyle rather than just trying to lose weight. With the weight loss being a necessary side-effect of Clean Livin’, there’s been less internal pressure on the process, and I don’t have to fret about my weight training slowing down my weight loss since the number on the scale isn’t what defines my fitness (although it’s the easiest number to talk about).

Into year three I still have a little over a hundred pounds to lose, but it’ll come off slowly and surely, I’m sure of it.

One Year of Clean Livin’

Today is the one year anniversary of my program to get healthy, lose weight, and look & feel better.

My progress so far: I’ve lost 112 lbs. (based on my average weight over the past two weeks, or what I call my “true weight” which smoothes-out the daily fluctuations in my weight).

I’ve been weighing-in and tracking my weight and exercise just about every day over the past year, and that constant feedback has been invaluable.

Thanks to everyone who’s supported me over the past year. I still have a ways to go (I’m still less than halfway to my goal) but I’m pretty confident that I can lose the weight, keep it off, and get healthy. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

What a Shame

Shame is like everything else; live with it for long enough and it becomes part of the furniture.

— Salman Rushdie, Shame: A Novel

SHAMEOne of the hardest psychological stumbling blocks to overcome is a feeling of shame about your condition. Unlike alcoholism, cancer, depression, and other diseases & afflictions, anyone with eyes can see your weight problem. If you’re as grossly obese as I was, people can tell from pretty far away. “Oh look, there’s a fat person.” An overweight person’s body is a mark of shame that would make Hester Prynne blush.

Feelings of shame are manifested when trying to do common things in a world made for thin people. I had a difficult time fitting into most armchairs, theatre and airplane seats, putting a seat belt on in someone’s compact car, and so on. I’m also pretty tall, at 6’4″, which compounds the problem, but isn’t something I feel shame about, because I’m naturally tall – but I made myself fat.

Guilt vs. Shame

Guilt is the feeling of having done a wrong thing. Shame is the feeling of being a wrong thing. I see a lot of advertising for low(er)-calorie snack foods that come with the promise of being “guilt-free,” but I’ve never seen any foods as promising a release from shame.

What causes shame about our body-image?  While not being able to fit into small spaces itself can be embarrassing, most of my shame regarding my weight was related directly to food and eating.

I found that eating in public, especially if I was eating something less than healthy, made me particularly self-conscious. Most of the time I don’t really care about what other people think, but this in particular made me feel really uncomfortable. Maybe it fed into (excuse the pun) my already intensely negative feelings about my body. For me, eating something like an ice cream cone at a street faire or neighborhood festival is so unpleasant that I just stopped doing it. Granted, I shouldn’t be eating those things regularly anyway, but as someone who enjoys food the shame that I feel about my weight impacts my enjoyment.

While I have a pretty thick skin about most things, I am more sensitive about my body. To a certain extent I can take a fat joke – and they’re usually not very clever. Yeah, I’m fat. I get it. Har har. It can be especially hurtful when you hear friends or family members make a crack about your weight since these are the people you rely on for support, but I can’t be too hard on them. We live in a society that values super-thinness and derides the obese.

My friends have been very very supportive for the most part. They ask me how my progress is going. If they do see me eating something that doesn’t help me achieve my fitness goals, they may say something about it being “not exactly clean livin’, eh?”

One of my co-workers tells me that he hopes I lose weight, but not to the point where I get super-fit, because I’ll be insufferable about it. I tell him that being smug about having lost a lot of weight is one of my primary motivators. He’s put on some weight himself since he’s gotten married, and I joke with him that he’s my own personal Dorian Gray picture – he’s putting on the pounds that I’m losing. Every Monday morning I would tell him how much weight he gained last week based on how much I’d lost. So yes, even I am guilty of making light of other peoples’ weight, although if you knew this co-worker you’d encourage me to be crueler to him. He’s one of those people who talks smack about everything (but in a fun way – he’s actually a really good guy and a friend).

Finding Pride

This is the point where I’d usually offer a helpful tip or trick telling you how I overcame this problem, but the fact is, I haven’t. I still feel a little ashamed of my eating habits, especially if I eat something unhealthy in a public place. I don’t know if it’ll ever get better. The only thing I can tell you is that I try to use my shame as a tool to help keep myself on track. I may eat a cheeseburger and fries from time to time, but the people at the restaurant didn’t see me walk four and a half miles to get to there, or the 45 minutes of weight lifting I did that morning.

Shame isn’t always a bad thing as long as you can learn how to use it to help you meet your goals.

I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is.

— Ben Stiller, Zoolander

The Secret

Imagine that you took the mind of an Olympic athlete like swimmer Michael Phelps and put his consciousness into my body.  After he was done screaming “Holy shit! What the fuck happened to my beautiful body? What have you done to my long-torsoed, dolphin-like physique?” – how long do you think it would take him to turn my overweight, atrophied, out of shape body back into a precision swimming machine?  Well, okay, probably a while.  But is there any doubt that he’d do it? (Hint: there is no doubt).

So if an athlete’s mind could get my body into good shape, my body isn’t really the problem.  The problem is that I was a fat guy, mentally, for a long time.  As a consequence, I shaped my body to match my mind.

The “trick” to weight loss and a healthy body isn’t a secret in and of itself: eat healthy foods, not too much of them, and get exercise.  That’s what you have to do.  What people don’t tell you is how to do it.

Here’s how.  The Secret – the key to getting healthy:

Become a healthy person, then act naturally.

Fitter, Happier, More Productive

How do you do that, then?  I wish I could tell you that it was easy, or that there was a secret elixer you could drink to become a thin person. It would be simple if you could go to the county faire and see the hypnotist. The truth is both simpler and more difficult than that.

You become a fit person by choosing to be one.  You have to make the choice every day, several times a day, at least at first.  After a while your new lifestyle becomes habit and it’s not as much of a chore. Every morning you’ll decide to exercise.  At every meal you have to choose to eat more healty foods, and in much smaller portions than you’re used to.  Why do you do this?  Because you have to.  Because you’re sick of being held back by a body that doesn’t work the way you want it to. Because to live another day as a fat person is unbearable and it’s stopping you from doing the things that you, as a healthy, fit person, want to do.

What kinds of things do I want to do?  At first I just wanted to be able to walk up a couple flights of steps without being out of breath and getting chest pain.  I wanted to be able to keep up with thin people when walking somewhere.  I wanted to be able to get up from a chair or pick up something that weighs more than five pounds without grunting a little.

In just a few weeks of eating right and exercising regularly, I was able to do those things, so I continue to re-assess and re-set my goals.  Now I’m feeling cocky and ambitious. I want to go hiking without feeling like I’m going to die.  I want to play tennis regularly.  I want to learn how to swim, which I’ve never done.  I want to run a 5K.  I want to run a marathon.  I want to run across an entire state.  I want to dance with the prettiest girl in the club (I do this already, truth be told) and I want her to want to have sex with me.  I want to wear shirts without sleeves to show off my massive guns.  I want to climb a fucking mountain.

Keep in mind that these are my short term goals.  Once I accomplish these I’ll come up with something more impressive.

So given my goals, why the hell would I eat a piece of cheesecake when it takes me a step back from them?  Why would I take a cab or ride the bus when I could walk somewhere?  Why wouldn’t I hit the gym most days when the gym helps me make my muscles bigger and makes me stronger?

But… HOW?

Okay, I know, I still haven’t said how to become a fit person with your mind. Some people have accused me of tricking myself. Fine, if that’s what you need to believe. The truth is that once I thought about what I was doing and how unhealthy my relationship with food was I changed instantly.  It was like I awoke from a dream, as though I were sleepwalking through my life up until that point and was now finally awake.  I had (Christ I cannot believe I’m going to say this) a moment of clarity. My thinking was so clear that I couldn’t believe that I ate the crap I used to eat and exercised as little as I did. In that instant I was transformed into a healthy person and emerged like a phoenix from the… well, you get the idea.

So all I can do is tell you how I arrived at my decision to be healthy, and how transformative that moment was for me.  I made a decision and the rest has been fairly easy.  You may not be able to make that decision, or not know how.  I bet that going through the motions will yield the same results that I’ve seen.  Why not give it a try?

Say Something Nice

Most people I know have been really helpful and encouraging.  Even complete strangers sometimes say nice things, like when I’m looking through books on nutrition and exercise at the book store, or walking on the treadmill looking unhappy (I find the treadmill to be dull as all hell and it gives me motion sickness a little).  Most of my friends have been extremely supportive.

Some people haven’t, though.  And some never will.  It’s okay that people will feel resentment that you’re making a change that they haven’t chosen to make for themselves, or wish they had the “willpower” or whatever excuse they come up with to not do the right thing.  They’ll tell you that your habits won’t last.  Or they’ll say something like “We’ll see” or “Oh, wouldn’t that be nice!” like your goals are an unattainable pipe dream.  Fuck those people.  They can pretty much die in a fire.

If they come around once they see you getting fitter, that’s great.  Everyone is welcome to come around and join Team Jough at any time, even if they’ve been jerks to me in the past about my newfound healthiness.  Some people may see you as an inspiration and start eating healthier and exercising themselves.  That’s totally cool.

I used to work with a guy who lives near where I work, and works near where I live, and I pass him from time to time when I walk the three miles to work (while he’s on his way to catch the bus). Sure, we stopped and talked the first time.  Then I just got a little wave.  Now he gives me this sheepish wave, or says something like “Walking to work again?” in a critical tone.  You bet I’m walking to work again.  And it’s okay that he’s taking the bus.  He doesn’t have to walk to work just because I’m walking a somewhat longer distance than he would have to.  Maybe he’ll start walking to work some day and feel better about his situation.  I don’t really let his unhappiness affect me.

After all, I delight in my condition.

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Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I'm just some guy who lost a lot of weight and studied up on nutrition, diet, and exercise in order to improve my personal fitness. The contents of this site in no way contains medical advice. You should visit your doctor before making any dramatic changes to your diet or activity. While I make every attempt to be as accurate as possible regarding current knowledge and scientific studies (please feel free to let me know when I'm wrong about something), and may from time to time post updates to correct inaccuracies in previous entries, the information on this site is provided "as-is" for entertainment purposes only. Don't do something stupid and then sue me. I'm just trying to help. Thanks.